You’ve got your Internet TV service, now do it a service and pimp up your home theatre for an impressive cinematic experience.
Internet TV services like Netflix, Stan, Foxtel Now and hayu are making TV shows and movies so much more accessible, it’s hard to justify why anyone wouldn’t tap into the immense libraries of entertainment they offer at rock-bottom prices. Movie theatres used to have the edge with their massive projector screens and booming sound systems, but even that isn't compelling enough anymore thanks to the rising quality and falling prices of home theatre systems.
Between a vivid, big-screen OLED TV, a plush couch and the ability to pause for a snack or bathroom break whenever you like, the modern home cinema is easily capable of rivalling anything the incumbent theatre chains offer. Plus, you don't have to pay $40 for popcorn and drinks only to find yourself seated behind someone with Marge Simpson's hair.
To help you give movie theatres the flick and enter the streaming age, we've laid out the key steps involved in building your own high-quality home theatre set-up. Take a look:
What do you need for the ultimate home theatre?
1. An Internet TV provider
First things first: you need an Internet TV service. OK, while this isn’t mandatory, it’s definitely a reason to go all-out in the home theatre department. If you haven't settled on a specific service yet, don't worry: most of the big ones offer free trials, and you can even chain them together to enjoy months of streaming TV without spending a cent.
For more information on what the different streaming services offer, check out our comparison of Australian Internet TV providers. Alternatively, you can take advantage of one of the free trial offers below:
Watch the latest reality TV with a 30-day free trial from hayu
Take advantage of hayu's limited 30-day month trial and access thousands of hours of Keeping Up With the Kardashians, Made in Chelsea and so much more.View details
2. The biggest, most bad-arse TV
You can't have a proper home theatre set-up without a suitably-gigantic TV to gawp at. Nowadays, you can find wall-spanning LCDs, ridiculously-crisp OLED displays and even home projectors at prices that don't require taking out a second mortgage. Most modern TVs also come ready to handle 4K resolutions, giving you an even clearer picture than you'll likely get from the bleachers at your local cinema.
To top it all off, the vast majority of TVs these days are smart TVs that sport built-in apps for Netflix, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video and many other video services.
So, when you're eyeing off all those shiny flat-screens, make sure to pick one that supports both 4K and smart TV features. That way you'll be future-proofing yourself as more movies are made available in 4K, plus you'll save money by not needing to purchase a separate set-top box to stream your favourite content.
Of course size is always a concern, and if you're shooting for the full cinema experience you'll probably want to go as big as your house and budget can support. Beyond size, though, you'll also want to consider the type of screen a particular TV uses. OLED and QLED displays are the latest and greatest in the current market, delivering brighter, more vibrant colours and superior lighting to existing LED displays. That extra quality comes at a premium, though, so it's best to see with your own eyes whether the expense is worth it.
If you're not sure where to start, take a look at the deals below:
Browse Sony 4K/HDR TVs
Take full advantage of 4K Netflix with a Samsung Smart TV
3. The sickest home theatre system
Booming explosions and bone-rattling bass are hallmarks of the theatre experience, so purchasing a primo sound system is vital to capturing that same aural experience in the comfort of your own home. These days, you have quite a few options available to you: wall speakers, surround sound systems, soundbars, bookshelf speakers, then you've got wired or wireless, battery-powered or outlet-required – the list goes on.
Much of the decision in picking out the right sound system comes down to the size and layout of your entertainment room. If the space between your couch and TV is a common thoroughfare, a wired surround sound system will likely lead to a lot of painful – and potentially expensive – stumbles.
On the other hand, wireless speakers are not only more expensive, they can suffer from distortion and drop-outs if you have other wireless devices like phones, video game controllers or PC peripherals active nearby. They also typically require a power cable, so they're not completely wireless, either.
A popular alternative that has gained traction in recent years is the soundbar. Typically long and thin, soundbars are designed to sit in front of or below your TV and provide an all-in-one audio solution that leaves your TV's built-in speakers for dead while requiring less space, money and effort than a full-blown surround-sound set-up.
Soundbars generally pack two or more internal speakers and can even simulate surround sound. Some also support external subwoofers for heavier bass, if you're so inclined.
Deciding between a soundbar and a complete home-theatre system essentially comes down to two main factors: budget and space. A full suite of surround sound speakers is always going to beat out a single soundbar for immersive audio, but smaller households and less-demanding listeners can often get better value out of the simple solution a soundbar provides.
To get started shopping for your new home-theatre system, check out the deals below:
4. The best entertainment unit
The humble entertainment unit is an oft-overlooked component of the home-theatre set-up. Sure, it's not as critical as a quality TV or a powerful audio system, but it's still worth taking the time to pick one that you'll be happy with for years to come.
First up, you'll want to consider size and placement. Think about more than what will fit inside your entertainment room; consider the traffic going through the room, the swinging arc of nearby doors, the space in front of the unit for pulling out drawers and the accessibility of power outlets.
Next you'll want to size up space on the unit itself with some of the following considerations:
Is it big enough for your TV? What about your external speakers, your set-top boxes, your video game consoles, your DVD collection? How easy will it be to thread power and HDMI cables through?
And of course, is it stable enough that the occasional bump by an errant child or pet won't result in a thousand-dollar accident?
Lastly, there's the relatively simple task of picking out an entertainment unit that suits your home theatre's style. We'll leave that one up to you.
To get you started on your hunt for the perfect entertainment unit, check out some options below:
Browse Entertainment Units at Zanui
Browse TV Units At LivingStyles
5. The plushest, comfiest sofa (or beanbag)
What good is an outstanding home theatre if your own butt doesn't get the luxury treatment, too? Sitting in one place for hours on end can be surprisingly tough on your ol' tuchus, so kitting out your entertainment room with a soft yet supportive couch is vital.
Size is always the biggest factor when purchasing a couch or sofa, so be sure to measure twice before throwing down hundreds or thousands of dollars on a suite that leaves your entertainment room crammed like a sardine can. Don't forget to measure your halls and doorways, too, because your new couch needs to make it through your house first before space in your entertainment room even becomes a concern.
For smaller homes and those on a tighter budget, flat-packed couches are often a compelling alternative to pre-built furniture. If you're considering going this route for your home theatre, though, be aware that flat-packed furniture is typically less resilient than its fully-assembled counterparts. Under stress from clambering kids and frequent movie marathons, a flat-packed sofa might not last as long as you'd like.
If you'd like some recommendations, check out our picks of the best couches for streaming Netflix. Alternatively, take a look at some ideas below:
Browse lounge suites at LivingStyles
Browse sofas at Zanui
6. Movie memorabilia. And lots of it
Now that the basics are out of the way, it's time to add some personal flair to your home theatre. Movie and pop-culture memorabilia is ideal for this. Thanks to the exploding popularity of "geek culture", it's easier and cheaper than ever to purchase posters, ornaments, rugs, lampshades, vinyl records, replica props and more based on your favourite movies, TV shows and video games.
Not only do these collectables help brighten up your entertainment room, they serve as handy conversation starters for when you're hosting movie nights with friends. Just be warned: don't buy The Simpsons coffee table book unless you want to dive down a deep rabbit hole from which you may never emerge.
Start your collection by checking out the deals below:
Browse collectibles at Ozgameshop
Browse collectibles at ThinkGeek
7. Footstools and cushions. These aren’t a privilege, they’re a right
After a hard day's work fighting off gravity, your feet deserve a soft place to relax as much as the rest of your body. Rather than sullying your couch or coffee table with your sweaty socks, why not give your clodhoppers their own space with a fancy footstool or plush ottoman? Besides taking the weight off your fatigued feet, some footstools even serve dual-purpose as storage units or even wireless speakers, saving space while also saving your legs from turning to jelly.
And if you're giving the bottom half of your body something soft to sink into, it only makes sense to do the same for your top half. A few comfy cushions will do the trick, taking pressure off your neck and avoiding the dreaded cramps that come from accidentally falling asleep on a naked couch partway through the director's cut of Fellowship of the Ring.
For help kitting out your couch, take a look at some choices below:
Browse poufs and footstools at Amara
Browse ottomans, poufs and footstools at Zanui
Browse cushions at Adairs
8. Snacks and drinks. Make sure these are just an arm’s reach away
Now that you don't have to take out a second mortgage to cover the cost of movie theatre popcorn, you can instead stock up on your favourite snacks and enjoy them whenever you please. Rustling chip packets, messy dips, and even alcohol are fair game – it's your house, after all.
To save you from trekking to the kitchen every time you get the munchies, a great idea is to outfit your home theatre with its own bar fridge. Sizes range from teeny 40L drinks coolers right up to 100L party boxes, giving you plenty of room to find the fridge that satisfies both your budget and your appetite.
When shopping for a bar fridge, capacity isn't the only concern to keep in mind. While more litres typically means more space for refreshing beverages and cool snacks, some fridges fill that space with freezer compartments and fruit and vegetable crispers. Depending on the kind of snacks you enjoy, these features could be handy additions or wasted real estate, so be sure to factor them into your purchasing decision.
If you're ready to take your home theatre to the next level, check out the bar fridges below:
Browse Bar Fridges at The Good Guys
The Good Guys
Browse Bar Fridges at Kogan
The best deals to create your home theatre
Top tips to make the ultimate home theatre
Now that you have all your kit, make it work in your favour. Here are some quick tips to get the most out of your new home theatre.
- Get the room shape right: Room shape plays a big part (there’s a reason it’s called surround sound). Square rooms tend to cause sound distortion, so aim for a rectangular room for an optimal listening experience.
- Board up them windows: No joke. On top of helping to contain sound, choosing a room with less windows means less outside light and fewer reflections. If you can’t board them up, a good layer of blackout curtains can work wonders. As for walls? You don’t need to splurge on anything special, but try covering them in dark paint to reduce reflection.
- Get the speakers right: Speaker placement is super important to the cinematic experience. Typical home theatres feature 5.1 surround sound. The general idea is to place three speakers and the woofer down the front of your theatre, two at the back (right behind the viewing area) and you’ll also want to keep them a good metre away from the walls to reduce echoes. Don’t be afraid to throw a stick at our suggestions here – each room is uniquely-shaped and will react differently to sound, so play around until your ears sing out in satisfaction.
- Screen angle: Yes, the angle you view your screen can impact comfort and increase or decrease eye strain. Ideally, you'll want to maintain a viewing angle within 30-40 degrees. In short, draw a triangle from the edges of your display to your nose and you should be creating angles within this area. This works in conjunction with your viewing height...
- Viewing height: Stay front on – so approximately eye level. Seems logical, but we just have to remind you, it’s the nicest and most comfortable way to view your flicks.
- Viewing distance: Again, another important consideration. Without getting too technical, multiply the diagonal of your screen by 1.5 and 2.5 and that will be the distance you should be able to see it nicely from without too much angle distortion.
And now… to the movies!